George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General William Heath, 3 March 1781

To Major General William Heath

Morehouses [Dover, N.Y.] 3d March 1781

Dear Sir

I beleive I forgot to inform you that I had ordered down six Companies of the York line to West point.1 They are intended to make up in some measure the deficiency occasioned by the detachment.2 I am Dear Sir Yr most obt Servt

Go: Washington

LS, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, MHi: Heath Papers. GW signed the cover, on which Tilghman wrote: “to the care of Colo. [Hugh] Hughes Fishkill [N.Y.].” Also written on the cover is “not answered March 4th.” GW was traveling to Rhode Island (see his letter to Rochambeau, 2 March).

Lt. William Colfax, commander of GW’s guards, wrote Heath from New Windsor on this date: “His Excellency left it in command with me to communicate to you every essential intelligence that might come to hand—and pointed out the persons from which he expected to hear of any movement of the Enemy at N. York. A person has this moment arive—an emmissary—Who left N. York four days since & gives the following verbal intelligence. That an acct of Arnolds Blockade had reached N. York: that 3,000 troops were put under Marching orders: that a number of transports had haul’d off in the stream to receive the troops: that there was a hot press the two nights before he left the City, to Mann the transports, and that it was reported, they were destined to relieve Arnold. ’Tis not certain that these troops are destined to the southward, however the informer says, that they had not heard, that the Marquis had Marched with a detachment from this post, at least it was not public. … P.S. The Generals bargemen, by his orders, I have sent to W. point—they will report themselves to Majr Porter” (MHi: Heath Papers). For other accounts of the intelligence from New York, see Heath to GW, 28 February.

Heath replied to Colfax from West Point on 4 March: “Your favor of yesterday came to hand the last evening, I thank you for the intelligence it contains. …

“I did not know that his Excellency was about beginning his Journey when I wrote him the day before yesterday it is not necessary to Send those Letters after him” (MHi: Heath Papers; see also Heath to GW, 2 March).

1For this order, see GW to James Clinton, 16 February.

Col. Goose Van Schaick wrote Heath from Fishkill on 2 March: “I have this evening arrived at this place with four Companies of my Regiment—General Clinton when I left Albany desired me to inform his Excellency General Washington of my arrival here, His Excellency I am informed is gone Eastward & I shall be under the necessity of remaining here tomorrow to refresh the Troops Shall be happy to receive your direction what place I am to March to” (MHi: Heath Papers).

Heath replied to Van Schaick from West Point on this date. After noting that “I had no Official notice of your Regiment being ordered to this Post,” he ordered the troops to take boats down the Hudson River, where they “will be Quartered in Some of the Hutts Built by them the last Fall” (MHi: Heath Papers; see also GW to Samuel Huntington, 28 Nov. 1780, n.6). Heath wrote in his memoirs for 6 and 7 March 1781: “Col. Vanschaak’s regiment of the New York line arrived at West Point, from Albany. The troops were at this time well supplied with provisions, but almost totally destitute of forage, and subjected to great fatigue in obtaining fuel, which part of the troops were obliged to bring on their backs nearly a mile” (Wilson, Heath’s Memoirs description begins Rufus Rockwell Wilson, ed. Heath’s Memoirs of the American War. 1798. Reprint. New York, 1904. description ends , 290).

2For this detachment, see GW to Lafayette, 20 Feb. (both letters [1 and 2]).

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